Social media is changing the face of traditional complaints procedures - and making them far more effective, exclusive new research by OnePoll can reveal.
Where letters, telephone calls and personal visits once sufficed, today's socially connected consumers are taking advantage of more instant - and more public - platforms to launch their tirades against under-performing brands.
Even the tried and tested email, once the stalwart of the modern complainant - is steadily losing ground to Facebook and Twitter.
According to a nationwide survey of 2,000 web users, 73 per cent of irate female customers now spend up to 15 minutes a day lambasting products or brands in this way.
An average of 15 per cent say they would write a negative comment "immediately" if they felt wronged or slighted in some way, with the remainder following suit within a few hours.
The overwhelming majority show their social media card as a last resort, and play it only when a company fails to respond to more traditional approaches.
But it's not only seasoned Tweeters that are forming the virtual complaints queue. Some 24 per cent of women and 33 per cent of men without social media accounts say they would consider creating one specifically to complain.
The only thing that hasn't changed appears to be the nature of the complaints themselves. No surprises that poor customer service and overpriced goods still grate and form the basis of most complaints.
The statistics, compiled over a two-week period and released for the first time today, are the product of feedback from 2,000 current male and female web users aged 18 and over.
They appear to reflect the changing behaviour of a nation that is becoming increasingly reliant on the internet - and user-generated content - for conflict resolution.
The survey delved into the general habits of internet users and found that a quarter of respondents (26%) with social media accounts spend 60 minutes or more per day reading and writing comments.
Of these, 89 per cent own a Facebook account and have an average of 300 friends, while 35 per cent had a Twitter account with an average of 150 followers.
Just 16 per cent had a MySpace account, and only 13 per cent used LinkedIn. Those with a LinkedIn account had an average of almost 150 contacts.
When it comes to complaining generally, three quarters (76 per cent) said they would do so if they felt "wronged" by a company or its staff.
Almost the same number (74 per cent) would make that complaint via email, compared to 23 per cent who would do so in person, 41 per cent by phone, and 42 per cent by humble letter. 57 per cent of women and 53 per cent of men would now consider complaining through the use of social media.
A not inconsiderable 70 per cent of those with existing accounts said they have used them to submit a complaint or comment about a brand. 71 per cent said they would now consider it as an alternative to email or letter.
It's not only the platforms for complaint that are changing - the timescales involved are changing, too.
Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of those who have complained using social media punched in their posts on the day they felt aggrieved.
Interestingly, the overwhelming majority of web users (86 per cent) prefer to complain using Facebook, compared to just 25 per cent on Twitter - a result, presumably, of the 140 character word limit.
Despite the ease of complaining online, only 33 per cent of respondents said they posted negative comments "automatically" if they experienced a problem. The same number would do so if they complained another way - by phone, for example - but received no reply.
A further 20 per cent would leverage social media to post negative comments if they were unable to issue a complaint to the company directly.
The benefits of using social media as a platform of complaint are obvious. Comments can be delivered instantly and on-the-move, and have a potential global audience of millions.
However, 15 per cent would use their social media accounts to praise a brand or its service, outlining social media's potential to be a machine for positivity also.
40 per cent of respondents with existing accounts have praised a company following a good experience. Almost a third (30 per cent) admit to dishing out negative comments rather than positive ones though.
Finally, consumers appear to place a considerable amount of trust in public opinion; 56 per cent would be "concerned" about buying a product if they read a complaint about the provider online.
Similarly, 26 per cent of respondents would be "more likely" to use or buy a product if they saw a glowing review. A further 57 per cent of respondents would "investigate" the product.
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